THAT KIND OF CLARITY

It’s always the same play. Harry runs away, Aussie chases. Around and around they run in the back yard.

Since I moved downstairs to Bernie’s old office with a door directly to the back, a door I often leave open, Harry has figured out a new configuration. He does his serpentine rush around the yard, then into the garage, through the dog door into the kitchen, down the hallway to the dining room, left into my office, out the door, another big figure 8 in the back yard, then into the garage, through the dog door into the kitchen, dining room, office, out again, you get the picture.

Aussie isn’t fast enough to catch him, so she takes breaks, standing completely still as he literally runs circles around her before resuming her chase. Just now he ran through my office and outside. She waited in my office, watching alertly as he circled the globe once or twice, got back to the house, kitchen-dining room-office, and just as he ran out the door again she tried to catch him only he actually leaped over her, landed outside, and kept on running.

You may ask: And what do you do all this time in all that frenzy? I’ll tell you. I sleep.

Not really sleep, only my system feels it’s perpetually dozing. I wake up early, do the usual, sit at my desk later on, do the usual, take the dogs out when it’s warm, back to my desk and the usual, a few phone calls, the usual. The usual refers to emails, reviewing a proof of The Book of Householder Koans, teaching, preparing for retreats, blogging, continuing with the never-ending sorting and cleaning of house, the usual. I will probably go on into the evening with the usual, but my mind’s not quite there. It’s not sharp, it’s not perceptive. Life proceeds in slow-motion and I often forget things.

I think Joan Halifax was the first to tell me years ago that sleep is very healing in grief; she said that after her father died.

It’s not that I sleep so much per se, it’s my cognition that’s taking time off. You don’t have to process everything, the system says, let me do some of this for you. Change the brain plumbing, plug up some holes, close up some rooms, open up some new ones. Let me do the work and you rest.

I’ve never been very good at rest so I worry about this.

Every morning I do a service in front of Kwan-Yin, then have some personal conversation.

“What do you want?” Ms. Compassion asks me.

“To awaken with others,” I tell her.

“What do you really want?” She asks.

“To work simply and directly. Nothing fancy or complex.”

“So what’s the problem?” She asks again.

“I lack clarity,” I tell Her.

“What kind of clarity?” asks She.

So I tell her of a radio interview I heard one night when I worked at Greyston in Yonkers years ago. I lived in the living room of a communal apartment at the time and heard a woman interview a Catholic priest who, night after night, parked a small trailer in Times Square.

“What do you do there?” she asked the priest.

“I bring hot coffee and donuts for the women who work the streets.”

“You mean the hookers in Times Square?” she said.

“Yes. They need a place in which to rest and get warm.”

“Do you do Mass for them?” she asked him.

“No, no Mass.”

“Do you talk to them about getting off the streets and changing their lives?”

“No, nothing like that.”

“So what do you do?” she asked again.

“I bring them hot coffee and donuts.”

“I don’t get it,” said the interviewer. “You’re a Catholic priest, so what do you do?”

“I bring them hot coffee and donuts every night.”

“That kind of clarity,” I tell Miss Compassion.

She laughs. “Or like the dogs,” She says. “See how they chase each other around us like a pair of banshees? Chasing is exactly what they have to do.”

Yes, that kind of clarity.